EDITORIAL / Secure nursing care staffers as major urban areas go gray
How to respond to the need for medical and nursing care in major urban areas, which will sharply rise in coming years, is a grave theme in social security policy.
In the 30 years from 2010, Tokyo and the prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba and Aichi, among others, will see huge jumps in the number of residents aged 65 or older. This was revealed in a recent survey by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research on population projections for specific regions.
In Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures, the number of residents who are 75 or older--a group with higher need for medical and nursing care services--will double during the period.
Urban areas will gray as generations who moved there from regional areas during the period of rapid economic growth become senior citizens. Rural society is already graying as depopulation has steadily continued in farming village areas, and the trend will spread to major urban areas.
In such a situation, it is indispensable to improve facilities for the aged, including special nursing care homes for the elderly. Such facilities have the advantage of being able to take care of many elderly people with a limited number of nursing care staff.
However, it is not easy to construct new facilities in urban areas, where land prices are high. The lack of facilities for the aged will worsen in the future.
We hope each local government will wisely prepare facilities for the aged by, for instance, utilizing the buildings of schools that are no longer in use.
Home care needed
It is also important to create an environment in which people can receive sufficient medical and nursing care at their homes. Expectations are running high for the 24-hour home-visit nursing care service that the government launched last year. Nurses or nursing care staff visit the homes of aged people several times a day, and can also respond to emergency calls.
However, this service has not been used widely: Less than 10 percent of local governments in the nation have introduced it so far.
Nursing care service providers are hesitant to adopt the service due to such burdens as responding to midnight calls. Difficulty securing nurses, a condition for entering the market, is said to be another cause.
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry must study measures to improve the situation, such as easing conditions for participating in the market.
It is also important to secure nursing care staff. Even people who have experience in this area often stop working due to marriage and childbirth. An environment has to be created in which such people can continue to work in nursing care while rearing their children, by solving the problem of the long waiting list to enroll children in licensed day care centers, among other things.
It is also necessary to improve salaries in this business sector, which are lower than in other industries.
Single men face isolation
The number of elderly men living alone in urban areas will sharply increase in the future, much more than single elderly women. This is going to be a big problem.
A major reason is that the percentage of unmarried men currently in their 30s and 40s is rising due to such factors as the increase in non-regular employees, who are paid less than regular full-time workers.
Single people cannot expect family members to provide nursing care when they become old. They tend to have tenuous connections to their neighbors and become alienated.
The urban graying problem must be discussed, including such factors as employment, salaries and an appropriate way for the public to bear the burdens. We hope the government's National Council on Social Security System Reform will deepen its discussions on these issues.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 12, 2013)